What is Manga?
Isn't it just a Japanese comic book? Well…yes and no. Yes, Manga is a book with pictures and a plot. But they are more like a graphic novel than a comic book. Most Manga's are read from right to left and you start from what seems like the back of the book. There are so many different writers and artists and each of them has their own unique way of drawing the characters. The genres are almost identical to what we consider 'everyday' books. There is: Science Fiction, Romantic Fiction, there and even some Non-Fiction Manga's, as well.
But in the illustrations many of the characters are drawn very provocatively and a lot of the time they are wearing suggestive clothing. That doesn't mean that all Mangas are like that, and that doesn't even mean that those that are, are necessarily inappropriate. The characters usually have abnormally big eyes and are drawn more animated than realistic.
What should be considered appropriate or inappropriate reading material?
I don't believe there is just one answer. Everyone has his or her own morals and opinions on what is right or wrong. In Japan, they are debating whether or not they should put restrictions on Manga books and Anime series that are published. People say that the way women are portrayed in them is degrading. And there are some types of Manga that do have parts that are inappropriate for some age groups. There are some books that have sexual content and there are some that have a lot of gore and violence in them. Another criticism that people have, is that those Mangas are easily accessible for anyone to get to, either online or in a bookstore.
But there is already a system in place. Most Mangas have an age rating on the back cover like '13+' or '16+' even '18+'. Those ratings are there for a reason just like the ratings on video games, movies and TV shows. People seem to make a judgment about the books and just assume that since there are pictures in them, then they are harmless, just like children's picture books. Sometimes the books are located in sections of a bookstore where kids can easily access them. But remember, not all Mangas are for everyone. Just like there are adult novels, there are also adult Mangas.
Why would someone pick up an adult Manga?
Have you ever heard the phrase 'Don't judge a book by its cover'? Well…that's nearly impossible. People are naturally drawn to something that looks interesting. And what is the first thing that you see when you look at a book? The cover. And the cover of a book can be very deceiving. I admit there have been many times when I have picked up a book (both Manga and novel) because I liked the cover. It wasn't until I opened it up to read some of the content and found out that it wasn't what I thought it would be.
Who should read a Manga?
Since there are so many different types of Mangas, I think everyone should try reading one and see if you like it. They are a quick and easy read. If you know a reluctant reader, they are fun books to get hooked on. My friend showed me my first Manga in seventh grade and got me hooked. That was when reading was not a priority to me, so it says a lot because not even my mom could get me to read at that time.
If you're afraid that your kids are going to pick the wrong book, then go with them to the bookstore and before you buy a Manga, check out the back and find the age that it's appropriate for. And if you're still worried, then flip through it to see if there is anything that seems inappropriate before making the purchase. You can buy Mangas everywhere these days. They are at used bookstores as well as mainstream bookstores.
Just like novels, don't judge a Manga by it's cover, because you could get a big surprise!